I was initially reluctant to read the Hunger Games trilogy only because I’m kind of tired of the YA genre (Twilight has worn me out) and I judgmentally assumed it’d be a fluff-type of story featuring teenagers to whom I can’t relate. I realized I was wrong on every account roughly 2 pages into the first book of the series. The strong, clever female lead, through whose eyes we watch the story unfold, is someone to whom I could easily relate and her smart narrative sucked me in immediately.
The story is reminiscent of 1984, a personal favorite of mine, and is much darker than I expected, which suited me very well as I am fond of all things dark and melancholy. The main character lives in District 12, the final of the 12 districts that make up Panem. The country is under the rule of the Capitol, a government that insists upon loyalty, even as it watches its citizens starve. Once a year, it forces each district to give up 2 adolescents (one male and one female) to participate in the Hunger Games, literally a fight to the death in an enclosed arena, designed to demonstrate to every citizen that the Capitol has complete control and to serve as a lingering punishment for a failed rebellion some decades ago. Pretty twisted for a novel written for teenagers, huh?
The main character, 16 year-old Katniss Everdeen, finds herself enlisted in the Games along with Peeta Mellark, a boy her age with whom she has a slight history. He once gave her bread in a time when she and her family were truly starving and she never stopped feeling indebted to him. Now, however, in order to stay alive, she knows he must die, possibly at her hands, along with 22 strangers from the other districts. And all of this in only the first couple chapters.
I admit I was hooked instantly. Katniss is sharp, bold and a bit wild and her story captivated me from the first paragraph. I also grew attached to Peeta. From the start, it seems inevitable that he will die and yet, I could not help but love him. He eventually comes to compete for Katniss’s affection with her long-time best friend, Gale, a strong, rebellious young man who is a couple years older and who, like Katniss, grew up in the Seam, the poorer part of District 12, whereas Peeta is a shopkeeper’s son. It seemed obvious to me that of the two, Gale would probably end triumphant in gaining Katniss’s love but that didn’t stop me from hoping against the odds that it would be Peeta she’d chose. I liked Gale well enough but Peeta is so kind, so honest, so full of integrity. He’s just so…good. There I go again, rooting for the wrong one.
I’ll save my thoughts of Catching Fire and Mockingjay (books 2 and 3, respectively) for another day. For those of you who haven’t read them, please do. They are well worth the time. (That means you – Annie!) I hear the movie adaptation is currently in the works and I, for one, am looking forward to it. I hope it does the book justice – Suzanne Collins (author of the trilogy) has set the bar seriously high.